What It's Like to Live With Both Autism Spectrum Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder
Editor’s note: If you struggle with self-harm, suicidal thoughts or an eating disorder, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741 or “NEDA” for eating disorders. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
Many are diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or borderline personality disorder (BPD) and are later told they have been “misdiagnosed” and are diagnosed with the other. Yet some are diagnosed with both.
People with BPD feel emotions incredibly strongly and feel compassion deeply, while those with ASD typically feel the opposite.
So what is it like to live with both?
Honestly? It is hell. There is no sugar coating it. It is a daily struggle. These are the ways these conditions affect me personally.
1. Social interactions.
I struggle to socialize, I struggle to make friends and I overshare information acquaintances don’t need to know about me. However, when I do make friends, the struggle doesn’t stop there. My ASD makes my senses heightened and so the slightest noise or look is picked up on immediately. If someone looks at me a certain way, it triggers off a wave of emotions — “They hate me, what did I do wrong?” These emotions and thoughts then intensify and I start to catastrophize. It doesn’t help that both these disorders make me think in black and white. Someone is either good or bad. They either love me or despise me. This has made friendships and relationships almost impossible.
I am obsessed with numbers. Dates, times and sequences are the healthier obsessions. My weight, calories and days free of self-destructive behaviors are not so healthy. I weigh myself four times a day minimum, and every calorie I keep down is counted. While I was heavily restricting my intake, every calorie out was counted, every step, every floor climbed and then every calorie in was too. The calorie deficit had to be at least 1000 and anything above that had to be in hundreds. I also became obsessed with my heart rate, blood pressure, body measurement and clothes size — looking at dozens and dozens of different clothing companies to see what my size was. My length free of self-harm is monitored daily and if that is broken, I’m so destroyed I have to set the timer back to zero and watch the number go back up again.
This one almost got me kicked out of therapy. The routine part of my ASD and the eating disorder part of my BPD feed off each other like a leech. Every morning, I have to go to the toilet and then weigh myself, then have two cigarettes and a cup of coffee with my meds, then breakfast when I get into work. Four hours later is lunch, and then on my way home I buy binge food. I can only buy certain foods I know I can purge and once I get home I weigh myself, record the time and start binging, doing it in a certain order in certain manors I know work. Once the clock hits two hours exactly after I recorded it, I have to purge. Doesn’t matter how much I’ve eaten, if I have responsibilities, the routine must be completed. I then purge until my weight is lower than it was before I started binging, then two cigarettes and I can’t sleep until four hours later. This routine is repeated daily. If I step outside the routine, I get intrusive thoughts and urges.
One moment I can be swinging from an incredible high of emotion to a crashing low, and then suddenly numb. I feel nothing. I lose all love for my partner; I feel nothing towards my friends. I am completely and utterly numb of emotion and feelings. I am aware my feelings and emotions will return, but until then, I am an empty shell of nothing. The once “overly emotional girl” becomes “utterly heartless and void of emotion.”
5. Future plans.
I become so stuck on a plan or idea. I can’t see my life going any other way and I am determined for the plan or idea to become a reality. I snap at anyone who says otherwise. It’s only once a life-changing event occurs that I snap out of that plan.
However, the combination of these two disorders isn’t all bad; there are many good qualities that come from them.
They are disorders classed as “high intelligence,” which has helped me massively in achieving school grades way above average, even at my most unwell.
In regards to relationships, I notice when my partner smiles even the slightest and it gives me such joy. I make a mental note of this.
The numbers obsession means I love to do Sudoku puzzles and therefore love problem-solving. I also enjoy doing maths and sometimes do algebra equations as a hobby. It’s also meant I am now the longest suicide attempt and self-harm free period I have ever been in and it motivates me to stay so. Even when the urges are high, I can look at this app I have showing how long it’s been and something as small as that can stop me from jeopardizing the many positive things in my life.
The routine element means when I get my head down at work, I can produce amazing quantities of work and surprise everyone around me. It means I’m never late for work or miss a bus if I take it daily.
Mood-wise, I love so deeply and those who are closest to me know I can lose all that emotion and stay with me. So no matter how much heartbreak I’ve been through, I’m left with the most loyal, understanding friends and partner who know what I need in each state.
I have a future plan I’m set on and my determination has meant I was discharged off an inpatient bed list, got a full-time job despite medical advise saying otherwise and I am in the best mental state of my life. I am also moving out in the next two months to really undertake recovery and live the life I’ve always wanted.
So to those who live with both these disorders: yes, day-to-day life can be debilitating, but focus on the positive things they give you because if you work hard, you can make it work for you and strive to do things you never thought you could.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.
If you struggle with self-harm and you need support right now, call the crisis hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741. For a list of ways to cope with self-harm urges, click here.
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Getty Images photo via Marjan_Apostolovic